The Obama administration on Friday expanded the FBI's definition of rape to count men as victims for the first time and to drop the requirement that victims must have physically resisted their attackers.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday expanded the FBI’s more than 80-year-old definition of rape to count men as victims for the first time and to drop the requirement that victims must have physically resisted their attackers.
Justice Department officials said the revision would make reporting the crime more accurate and provide a better understanding of its effects on victims.
Since 1929, rape has been defined as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.”
That definition, which included only men having sex with women without their consent, excluded other forms of sexual assault, such as oral penetration and rape of men.
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The new wording, announced by Attorney General Eric Holder, covers those and several other forms of sexual assault. It will be used in the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, which draws on data submitted by local police departments, and probably will prompt a rise in reported rapes nationwide, law-enforcement officials said.
Although most states’ rape statutes already contain a broader definition of the crime, officials said the federal revision holds deep significance because the FBI’s reports are often synonymous in the public mind with crime rates. The FBI data are also used by policymakers to analyze crime and propose anti-crime initiatives.
“This sends a powerful message,” Susan Carbon, director of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, said in a conference call, adding: “… It’s rape even if you’re a man. It’s rape even if you are raped with an object, and even if you were too drunk to consent.”
Administration officials said the change, which will take several years to fully implement, was driven primarily by Vice President Joseph Biden, author of the Violence Against Women Act when he was in the Senate, and the White House Council on Women and Girls.
Valerie Jarrett, who chairs the council and is a senior adviser to President Obama, said the revised definition is “a major policy change that will lead to more accurate reporting and a far more complete understanding of this devastating crime.”
An FBI police-advisory board recently recommended the change; FBI Director Robert Mueller signed off on it last month.
The revised FBI definition says rape is “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object,” without the consent of the victim. Also constituting rape under the new definition is “oral penetration by a sex organ of another person” without consent.
In 2010, an estimated 84,767 rapes under the FBI’s current definition were reported nationwide. Officials could not specify how much they expect the reporting of rapes to increase.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.